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Archives for October 10, 2015

RADD thinks elements of plan can fit city priorities

The new Guiding Principles for the city of Alexandria’s R.I.V.E.R. Act means the full “bold vision” of the ambitious RADD plan won’t be implemented.

But RADD founders still think elements of the plan fit the city’s new parameters and can help bolster downtown development. A proposed multi-level parking garage that would combine with a downtown loop transportation system is one of the RADD proposals which organizers say meshes well with city objectives.

When the city asked for ideas related to the R.I.V.E.R. Act, the administration “was looking for a bold vision for downtown,” said Jeffrey Carbo of Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects, one of the RADD principals.

“So we put every bold vision that we thought was valid on a plan and submitted it.”

He and fellow RADD principals Jay Lynch and Oday Lavergne say they realize that now that the City Council has approved specific Guiding Principles for the R.I.V.E.R. Act, some of those bold ideas are not likely to move forward at this time.

“We got the message loud and clear,” Carbo said.

But they are hopeful some of RADD ideas that do fit the new guidelines will move forward.

“There are ideas and projects (in the RADD plan) that meet the criteria that the council has set forth in their Guiding Principles,” Lynch said. “We have a group of active projects that we think fit some of that criteria.”

Lynch is with Barron, Heinberg Brocato Architects and Engineers of Alexandria. Lavergne, of Lee Gateway Development, owns multiple downtown buildings and sites.

The City Council on Sept. 9 approved the Guiding Principles of the Riverfront Improvement Venture and Essential Recreation Act, better known as the R.I.V.E.R. Act. The initiative is to help develop the area near the Red River downtown.

The council set total spending at $5 million over 10 years. While specific projects have not been chosen, needs to be addressed by projects were designated, showing where the city’s priorities lie.

The priorities were listed in this order: education- and workforce training-related projects; projects related to medical or any other cluster industry; city projects; recreation projects; and parking projects that may exist within the other priorities.

Lavergne noted that the education priority in the Guiding Principles includes “qualified transit programming and projects” related to workforce transportation or education as well as “mixed-use retail space.”

“Boom, we got that” in the RADD plan, he said.

RADD, which stands for Riverfront Alexandria Design Development Team, worked on the plan for about six months based on the administration’s call for R.I.V.E.R. Act ideas, Lavergne said, but it appears the council “redirected” priorities by setting the Guiding Principles.

“We’re still prepared because a lot of our proposals were about business and economic development and supporting the community college, so we’re ready to go,” Lavergne said.

Lynch said RADD is looking forward to meeting with city officials about the elements of the plan that fit the city priorities.

The council on Sept. 22 gave Mayor Jacques Roy’s administration authority to “facilitate further assessment of the viability of plans submitted by the RADD and any other potential development partners; to authorize and encourage further vetting of financial, programmatic and logistical feasibility” and related matters.

The vetting process of the RADD proposals are for ones “that fit within the priorities” of the Guiding Principles, according to Roy.

The process is still in the early stages. The administration is to provide a comprehensive report to the City Council before Dec. 31 on an assessment of one or two “best anticipated ‘destination’ projects”; one or two “best anticipated ‘mixed-use’ recommendations”; and “any number of other projects.”

RADD officials say the RADD plan’s proposed parking garage and transportation project would fit with those priorities because it would provide parking for the Central Louisiana Technical Community College to be built downtown as well as parking for other downtown areas.

“There are going to be 800 to 1,500 students that are going to commute to the community college in the core of our downtown area. That’s the reality, and that needs to be addressed in some fashion,” Lynch said.

The RADD plan proposes “development of a multi-level, mixed-use Structure Parking and Transportation Center” that would be located on about 7 acres of land owned by Lee Gateway Development Corp. and would be “within a walkable 1,500 feet” of the CLTCC campus.

The location would be the area bound by Lee, St. James, Eighth and Ninth streets.

That parking center could provide hundreds of parking spaces. The ground floor of the center might house a child daycare, a health clinic, coffee shop, bicycle rental, small pharmacy and a laundry, the plans suggests.

The proposal calls for a “Short Loop Downtown Transportation Service,” for which federal transportation matching funds might be available. The service would involve “alternative, smaller, lighter, specialty transport vehicles,” the RADD plan says.

Having a multi-level parking garage not directly next to the CLTCC campus would mean properties near the campus would not have to be used for parking but instead could be developed, the RADD plan notes.

Parking is a priority for downtown businesses and developers, Carbo said, and “what we’re trying to say is there’s a solution. We know what a viable solution could be. We know where we could go to help get it funded, and we think it’s better for the core of downtown not to force that right adjacent to the community college …”

He said the parking center also could help revitalize the Lee Street corridor. “I think the Lee Street corridor is ripe for redevelopment, and this could certainly be an anchor.”

RADD also has proposed other projects that could tie in with the recreation aspect of city priorities, including a boardwalk, wharfs, canoe/kayak area, skateboard park, water play area; riverfront pedestrian-friendly activity nodes; and enhanced lighting and landscaping for pedestrian areas, as well as artistic lighting for the downtown Red River bridges.

Carbo said other riverside communities that have been successful in redeveloping “recognize it’s all about the river.”

“Honestly, it’s all about the river. Our problem from Day One has been the levee. There’s no physical connection. There’s no usable green space adjacent to the river, so therefore the river is underutilized,” Carbo said.

The RADD group includes developers, downtown property owners, architects, engineers and consultants. The plan was created in response to the city’s call for ideas on R.I.V.E.R. Act projects that would lead to public-private partnerships to boost development in downtown Alexandria, particularly near the Red River.

RADD was the only group to submit a full plan during the city’s call for ideas, so it has been given “early bird” status, meaning the city will “treat particular aspects of the RADD proposal with favored proposer status in later selection of qualified firm(s).”

The city has made improvements, primarily recreational, along the river over the years and now wants to stimulate development through infrastructure projects that will lead to additional private investment.

Originally there was discussion about the city possibly spending $6 million to $8 million to try to generate other spending of four to five times that much by the private sector and grants. The council has since settled on the $5 million spending cap, emphasizing there would be no new taxes or bonding to fund R.I.V.E.R. Act projects.

One of the most talked-about proposals included in the RADD plan is creation of a “Town Center Green” in the space now occupied by Alexandria City Hall, including Convention Hall, and Alexander Fulton Park (the mini-park).

Based on the Guiding Principles for the R.I.V.E.R. Act, that is not going to take place, at least not anytime in the foreseeable future as part of the R.I.V.E.R. Act.

Carbo, who designed the green-space proposal, understands that is not a city priority at this time, but he still thinks it would be a big asset for downtown.

“There is a fair amount of support from those that are interested in downtown development for the green space,” Carbo said.

“I think it is definitely a valid idea. Are there other things that might take precedent and be a little bit more important at this point in time? Certainly.”

Carbo and other RADD members realize the city is not going in that direction at this time, and they are focusing on elements of the plan that do tie in with city priorities.

They also said the business community will continue to have a big say in the reshaping of downtown, no matter what projects are done by the city.

“Who knows where that may take us? But there seems to be some emerging energy and some interest and some enthusiasm, and the private sector’s going to do what they want when they see opportunity,” Carbo said.

“I think the city can provide those incentives to the private sector. That’s the role of the city,” Lynch said.

“What can they do to provide incentives to attract private development downtown? There’s some things that the mayor has always said, and that is infrastructure. He can invest in infrastructure to make some of those things happen. Well, there’s quite a bit of infrastructure related to the transportation network that we envision for RADD.”

Lavergne said the Guiding Principles, with emphasis on education and workforce training, take focus away from the river itself.

“It’s clear that with the Guiding Principles, this is no longer a R.I.V.E.R. Act,” Lavergne said, but it is a downtown development plan.

“Now, we are prepared to move forward and meet the challenge of opportunity, No. 1, with transportation for the workforce and the schools, which are two different issues … and help make our community a pedestrian-friendly community,” he said.



To see the Guiding Principles, click on this link:


To see the RADD plan, click on this link:

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Garden City Council candidates’ Q&A

Five candidates are vying for four terms on the Garden City Council – incumbents Margo Arnoske, Jim Kerwin, Patricia McKarge and Patricia Squires and newcomer Mark Jacobs. The top two candidates will receive four-year terms while the third- and fourth-place finishers will receive two-year terms.


, 44, is employed as an administrative assistant at Center Mass, Inc. She is married and has a daughter. A 1989 graduate of Garden City High School, she is one of the founders of the Garden City Relay for Life and captain of the Save the Ta-Ta’s team. She currently is a member of the Downtown Garden City Santaland Parade Committee and for the past several years has volunteered for the Garden City Goodfellows and for the Garden City DDA Chili Cook-Off.

Jacobs, 53, is employed as a millwright at the Ford Motor Co. A 1980 graduate of Bishop Borgess High School, he has been a member of the GCYAA since 1988 and a lifetime member since 2001. He also is a 19-year member of American Legion Post 396, president of the Garden City Over 30 Hockey Association 2007-2015 and president of the Pierce Place Homeowners Association.

Kerwin, 67, is employed by Kerwin Construction Company. He is married and has three children and seven grandchildren. He also is a graduate of Garden City West High School. He has been involved with the Garden City Rotary, Garden City Jaycees and GCYAA of which he is a life member. A Garden City First Citizen, he served as a community reader at Henry Ruff Elementary, and helped start reading and mentoring program at Memorial 1/2 Campus.


, 66, retired from the City of Garden City. She worked in Youth Assistance, Senior Services and Parks a Recreation, retiring in 2011 as the Parks and Recreation director. A widow, she has three grown children and three grandchildren. A 1967 graduate of Garden City East High School, she has a bachelor of science degree from Eastern Michigan University and completed graduate work in education at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and graduate work in community counseling at Eastern Michigan University. She has been an active member of the Garden City Kiwanis for 21 years, a member of the Garden City Garden Club, a volunteer for the FISH Dial-a-Ride program and have recently become a member of the events committee for the Garden City Business Alliance.


, 65, is Realtor with Remerica Integrity II Realtors and involved with Angela Hospice. Marries, she has four children and 10 grandchildren. She is on the Garden City Santaland Parade Committee, secretary for Mayor’s Committee for Underprivileged Children, Lector and Eucharistic Minister at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 396 and American Legion Riders at Post 396 Garden City, city council liaison to Commission on Aging and member of the Garden City Business Alliance.

Observer: What is your specific plan/ideas to help bring more residents, especially young families, to Garden City and make the city a more attractive place to live? AKA: Sell to Sue Mason Garden City as a city she should move to.

Arnoske: I believe to attract younger families, a community must offer a clean and attractive, safe place to live. Garden City offers all of that. I would like to see the city work with the schools and local real estate offices to hold an open house in the community. Many young couples go to open houses to find a home. Instead of just looking for a house, we can open our community and show prospective buyers all the great opportunities our community has to offer. We have affordable and attractive homes, as well as great schools. We also have the best police and fire departments in the area. We have an excellent youth sports program with the GCYAA. Our city parks are clean and safe and offer many walking paths for residents. Maplewood Community Center houses the Garden City Library and offers numerous activities for our senior citizens and youth.

With so many great things to offer, Garden City truly is a “Great Place to Call Home”, we just need to market it to that affect.

Jacobs: Garden City is a small town community with low crime rate and safe neighborhoods. We have different school options for young children like St. Raphael, Charter Schools or Public Schools. We have plenty of recreation for kids. We have excellent services as in our DPW, Police and Fire Departments. In general Garden City is small enough that you can get to know everyone and big enough to have all the services you need.

Kerwin: GCYAA has many sport activities for the children to be involved in. The residents are very active and volunteer their time as well as nonresidents. Many come from other cities, just because of our sports programs throughout the city.

We have good caring teachers and volunteers, with strong bonds that go above and beyond. Mr. Bill Abbott, Kathy Kolesar and many more.

DDA downtown development are always coming up with new ideas for community events, example (Flea Circus), (Chili Cook off). (Santaland Parade), which has been going for 50+ years, (Trunk or Treat, local businesses come together for this event.

I would like to see the Chamber Of Commerce return back in our city, I think it is important for a city to have a Chamber of Commerce.

We have a great library, which offer free events for the families and children.

Garden City soon will have a new parking lot, the park is kept clean, nice ball fields, I commend our new director Kevin Roney for keeping our park facilities a clean place for families to come and enjoy.

McKarge: What is your specific plan/ideas to help bring more residents, especially young families, to Garden City and make the city a more attractive place to live? AKA: Sell to Sue Mason Garden City as a city she should move to.

Garden City continues to provide a safe, well-kept and affordable community that has amenities such as community events and recreational programs. We are a community made up of very caring, hardworking families and businesses. This is certainly one of our major strengths that we need to nurture.

I will continue to support, at minimum, the current level of staffing in the police and fire departments. We cannot do this without support from the general and safety millage funds which I supported and will continue to fight for.

Garden City’s housing stock provides homes that are affordable for young families. Affordability is very important but families want quality housing in neighborhoods that are well maintained. The city must continue to educate citizens and businesses concerning ordinances that address the responsibilities of home and business ownership. Then we have to enforce the ordinances. This will allow us all to enjoy our community and encourage new families and businesses to move here.

There is not a lot of room for new growth in Garden City but there is still a need to improve existing homes and apartments. Rental properties must be inspected and owners required to maintain them. The city took a big step in improving our housing stock by entering into a Neighborhood Stabilization agreement with a development company that will rehabilitate tax-foreclosed homes and fill them with owner occupied taxpayers. I supported this program and will continue to support innovative ideas to improve our community.

I will continue to support the sidewalk maintenance program. Every decision I make I must weigh the cost of the program with the benefits. This program is a cost to the homeowner, but safe and walkable neighborhoods are one more step in creating a community that people want to live in. Our city infrastructure is the responsibility of city government. I voted to put in a new parking lot at City Park because we have a responsibility to maintain city owned facilities. I am disappointed we cannot make faster improvements in our streets.

Garden City offers a great sense of place. I will continue to support programs such as the Santaland Parade and the Chili Cook-off. I will continue my personal support of the Garden City Historical Museum and I encourage others to support it as well. I will also listen to and support the volunteer youth athletic organizations that provide exceptional programs for our youths. These amenities are what keep families in Garden City and will bring in new ones.

Squires: As a Realtor, it is illegal for me to steer a client to a particular area but since Sue Mason is not my client, here we go. Word of mouth is the best advertising. Garden City has so much to offer. It is a warm, comfortable community with affordable homes, our own hospital, police and fire departments. The police and fire department are thanks to our residents that voted for the millage. We have our Sports associations run by many volunteers that keep our youth active. We offer family oriented activities every year like our Santaland Parade, Flea Circus, Kids in the Park just to name a few. It is a city that has multiple generations buying homes here. I’m proud to say that three generations of my family live here, I have been an advocate for our Neighborhood Stabilization Program, where homes lost to tax foreclosure are being purchased, rehabbed, brought up to code and will be sold to owners that will occupy them. Thus eliminating some of our vacant homes. I will be keeping on top of the progress of that program to make sure it’s working properly.

Observer: Why did you decided to seek a seat on the Garden City Council? Cite three of the top priorities that you believe should be addressed by the City Council?

Arnoske: I am seeking re-election because I believe Garden City is a great city and I would like to continue being a part of Garden City’s future successes. Garden City is the community that I have grown up in. My parents, brothers, aunt and uncle are residents here too. I’ve stated it before, “Garden City is a community where generation after generation has lived”.

My top three priorities are city infrastructure, curbside recycling and continued blight enforcement.

Our city’s aging infrastructure needs to be addressed. The city has done a good job of holding it together during the economic crisis. Now it’s time to develop a plan with vision that looks at our short and long term needs. We need to continue to be creative in finding funding from outside sources to supplement our property tax base. Curbside recycling is one of the things that young couples expect and will help attract families to our city; and lastly, continued support of ordinances in controlling blight within the city.

Jacobs: I decided to run for council because I now have the time to devote to the city. I am a lifelong resident that has seen everything from the good to the bad happen here and I believe I can help the city improve. I think the priority for our city is to try to get more businesses into the city. We have plenty of property available, especially along Ford Road. Another issue I am interested in addressing is our roads. Our side streets are in terrible shape and I would also like to see the Blight Program continue to grow.

Kerwin: I’ve had eight years on the city council. I love this city. I’ve raised my family here, been in this city for 60+years.

I want to continue to work with the citizens with questions and concerns, and respond to them immediately.

A. Infrastructure – we need to continue maintaining, repairing and rebuilding our roads, water mains and buildings.

B. I would like to see the continuing up keep of properties.

C. Making sure that we keep open communication and transparency.

McKarge: I am seeking reelection to the City Council because I feel I am making a positive contribution to my community. I bring a balanced outlook concerning city services. On one hand I am aware that we must remain an affordable city. I strive to keep our taxes and assessments as low as possible while providing resources that keeps the environment safe and also provides the amenities that people want in their community.

The top three priorities that should be addressed by the City Council are:

1. Maintaining a balanced budget that meets the needs of the community including maintaining and improving the city infrastructure and also maintaining a fund balance (savings account) that can meet emergency needs

2. Continuing support of water and sewer infrastructure improvements/maintenance

3. Supporting programs and ordinances that will maintain housing stock and businesses in the city.

Squires: I love Garden City and am proud that I have been able to be a part of helping our city move forward after an economic downturn. We are headed in the right direction and I would like to continue with the decision making process to keep us on the right track. I see our infrastructure, why businesses are not moving into our city and blight in our neighborhoods as some of the top priorities.

Observer: Business development: what can be done from a council level to encourage business development in the city, especially in downtown area?

Arnoske: Garden City is a residential community with many established small businesses. Continued support of the DDA and Garden City Planning Commission is vital to our business development. With the DDA and help of the newly created Garden City Business Alliance, more focus can be given on welcoming new businesses to our city.

Jacobs: To get more businesses in the city we could look at some kind of incentives such as tax breaks or some other kind of benefit to encourage businesses to start up in Garden City.

Kerwin: I have been in business for over 40 years, I have experienced what businesses need and want in our city.

McKarge: I have been a member of the Garden City Kiwanis for 21 years and this past year became involved in the Event Committee of the Garden City Business Alliance. I joined these groups for two reasons, one I enjoy doing volunteer work in my community such as helping at the Chili cook-off and the Garden City Taste-Fest. Secondly and most importantly, I am able to have closer contact with business owners in Garden City. This contact has made it easier for me to see the “whole” picture of our City, not just as part of city government or as a homeowner. There is a balance that I am looking for and hope to sustain; supporting regulations and ordinances that encourage a safe and pleasant environment but trying to make the process easier for our business owners. The best way the city can support our businesses and encourage businesses to move here is to maintain a strong, stable community. That encompasses many components that the council is constantly working on.

Squires: We as a council need to encourage the support our current businesses and take the initiative to find out why businesses are not moving into Garden City.

Observer: What would you like to see changed about city government? Improvements, changes to how service is rendered, etc.?

Arnoske: Our city employees have continued to provide excellent service for the past 10 years despite a 30 percent reduction in all personnel. Garden City has always maintained an average of 3-5 minute police and fire response time for emergencies. Our DPS crews have provided outstanding services to the residents despite having minimal funding for road repairs. As a resident, I believe we have the best snow plow crew in Wayne County. Unfortunately, we have reached the point where we can’t continue to ask our employees to do more with less. We need to give the employees the tools they need to do their jobs the right way and stop our Band-Aid approach. It’s the responsibility of the Mayor and Council to make sure the budget that is approved addresses their needs and we need to make improving our city services a priority.

Jacobs: Right now, from the outside I think the city is pretty streamlined. I would like to see more funding from the state to help our DPW crews and Police and Fire. I believe with the limitations we have we get great services.

Our Police and Fire Departments provide excellent services. Our Chiefs and their teams work very efficiently.

Kerwin: I believe we are doing a pretty good job I would not change this council. We work together as a team, of all my years on city council, this one works well together.

McKarge: The quality and number of staffing plays an integral part of how our city government works. As our economy improves the Council must look carefully at how employees are compensated and how many are needed to provide the services the community wants. There is always a balancing act, what we need versus what we can afford.

I would like to see a new or renovated building for the Department of Public Service. The current building is inadequate and has been for a long time.

I would like to have curb side recycling. This is an issue that council will be looking at again in the near future. There seems to be strong support for having this service but it can only be accomplished if it is financially responsible.

I would like to see improvements made to city property such as basic landscaping needs at City Hall, at our parks and at Maplewood. As a member of the Garden City Garden Club I helped renovate the landscaping at the Fire Department and am working on the entrance areas of City Park. Volunteers can do a great deal but cannot do it all.

Squires: I would love to see us be able to hire a few more employees to help our some of our department heads, but that will take time. We have been very fortunate to keep many of our city services and I would like to see more of them come back. Our department heads and employees are doing a great job with what they have to work with.

Observer: Why should voters choose you over candidates to fill one of four council seats at stake in this year’s election?

Arnoske: I have spent my career working for the city (22 years), both professionally and as a volunteer. I understand how the city departments operate as well as budget issues. I’ve worked for previous Councils as the City’s Administrative Assistant. This experience, as well as my past two years serving on council, has allowed me to continue to gain additional insight into how the governing body operates and what is necessary to make it an effective form of government. I have a passion for this city and would like to be a part of its future successes.

Jacobs: I believe I am the right candidate as I have been in the city my entire life. I have been involved with different organizations and have worked with many different personalities working as a team towards one goal. I think one of my best traits is that I listen and have the ability to be fair. I know I can’t make everyone happy but if I do what is best for the majority of the people then I believe I have done my duty. I am a honest, hardworking person that has the best interest of the people in mind and would like to see Garden City continue to grow and become better and more attractive as time goes on.

Kerwin: I believe with my present and past vast experiences with the city that it would be the best interest of our citizens to keep me on this council to continue working for their best interest.

Current council member, Past Mayor Pro-Tem, Life member of the GCYAA, Past member Garden City Jaycees, Former Garden City Planning Commissioner, Past member of Garden City Rotary, Garden City business owner for over 40 years, past board member of Garden City Hospital, Myself, wife and children are Garden City School graduates. I’m dedicated to all residents and business owners of Garden City.

McKarge: In the past two years I have proven that I can make tough decisions on the budget and work respectfully with administration and fellow council members. Through the years I have earned the respect of residents of all ages by being trustworthy, approachable and interested in the community as a whole. I do my homework, researching issues that come before the council, and asking questions of staff members. With my past experience as Parks and Recreation Director, as an active volunteer member of the community and my current experience on council I feel I have the knowledge and the experience to make good decisions for our community.

Squires: I take my Council position very seriously. My decisions are based on common sense. As I have said many times, my decisions not only affect all the residents of Garden City, but me and my family as well. I love Garden City and will hopefully be elected to continue to serve the residents here.

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EDITORIAL: Exploring career paths they’ll love

Planning for the future

Posted: Saturday, October 10, 2015 4:03 am

EDITORIAL: Exploring career paths they’ll love

It’s not surprising we don’t hear the term “professional students” much any more.

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      Saturday, October 10, 2015 4:03 am.

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      Keyhole gardens: a drought-friendly twist on raised beds

      Americans whose gardens have been toasted by prolonged drought might consider a landscaping concept from Africa. It’s called keyhole gardening, and some believe it’s the ultimate in raised-bed design — a sustainable combination of composting and planting.

      Keyhole gardens are small — typically no more than 3 feet high and 6 feet in diameter — and look like keyhole assemblies in doors when viewed from above. From the side, they can resemble a tall earthen pie with a giant slice taken out.

      They don’t need fertilizer, use 80 percent less water than the normal backyard patch, tolerate hot climates and are easier to tend because they’re at waist level. No bending or kneeling required.

      Keyhole gardening was pioneered in Africa and became popular there again recently through initiatives by humanitarian aid groups.

      A keyhole garden’s primary asset is drought tolerance, although it also works in temperate climates, said Eddie DeJong, co-founder and head of business development and design for Vita Gardens in Sarnia, Ontario. The company makes keyhole garden kits.

      The gardens get their nourishment from compost and water poured down an open-ended tube in the middle of the garden bed.

      “The central composting basket is the key to making this an effective gardening solution,” he said.

      “After the garden has been established, it should be watered primarily through the compost basket and less and less around the bed itself,” DeJong said. “This trains the vegetables to grow deep roots down to where the moisture and the nutrients are.

      “Furthermore, if the garden is layered as intended, local yard waste like grass clippings, palm fronds and other materials are converted into rich soil, making the entire bed a composting nutrient factory.”

      Keyhole gardens are cheap and simple to assemble. African children often build them in schoolyards or for their families.

      Structural components include native and recycled materials as straw bales or bricks. “We don’t use waste lumber because it rots down too easily,” said Rose Marie Nichols McGee, president and owner of Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon. “Tractor tires are an uncertainty because they may contain toxins.”

      Some commercial kits offer a more tailored look for use on patios and decks.

      DeJong said his company is working on lighter, more compact sizes for keyhole gardens, and “aluminum and composites for a modern urban look.”

      Keyhole gardens have proven to be more productive for McGee than regular raised beds.

      “This is particularly true of tomatoes, peppers, beets and carrots,” she said. “Some of this is probably due to the hundreds of worms the keyhole garden promotes, and an abundance of worm castings is one of the best fertilizers and soil conditioners.”

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      Pollinators provide future for crops

      A couple living on Bay Shore Drive east of Sturgeon Bay watched as more than 20 monarch butterflies swarmed a meadow blazing star plant in their backyard. The tall purple plant is considered a “monarch magnet,” and is typically planted to attract pollinators.

      Don and Joy Gustafson were anticipating the monarchs to make an appearance, and when it happened they were confident they were doing the right thing to help the pollinators have a place to stop. Now they want to promote others to do the same.

      The meadow blazing star is only one of many different native plantings the Gustafsons have placed in their backyard sanctuary. Varieties include coneflowers, mountain mint, goldenrod, wild geraniums and more.

      Don, a former urban forester with the University of Illinois, said he wanted to create a new habitat on their property, because the need to protect pollinators is important to the future of human consumption of plant matter.

      According to the National Resources Conservation Service, three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. The NRCS Insects and Pollinators webpage even states that researchers estimate that one of every three bites of food humans eat exist because of pollinators like butterflies, bees, moths, birds and other insects.

      Gustafson tends to 27 fruit trees in a small orchard near his native plants garden. Two of the apple trees are about 25 years old and came with the house when they purchased it. Now he has varieties including Mcintosh, Spartan and Empire.

      “My apple trees wouldn’t be as prolific without the pollinators,” Gustafson said. “I do believe having a pollinator garden increases my trees production, plus it’s good for the environment.” He and Joy have been sharing the cherries and apples on a regular basis, as they can’t keep up with what the trees produce.

      Don and Joy have many flowering plants in their yard, but not all of it is native plants. They split the flower bed in two, with one side styled decoratively in a more Victorian fashion. To complete the ambiance, they have lined their long driveway with multicolored wildflowers offering pops of yellow and orange.

      Originally from Illinois, the Gustafsons want to encourage their neighbors to join in the effort to help increase local pollinator populations in other backyards and throughout the community.

      “We are going to see changes with more native plantings, including higher crop and fruit yields,” Gustafson said.

      The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that butterflies and bumblebee species are disappearing due to habitat loss and pesticide poisoning, but pollinators are important to maintaining a healthy ecosystem, ensuring genetic diversity and plant reproduction.

      Some suggestions from the USDA on planting a pollinator-friendly garden include using a variety of plants that bloom from spring to fall, eliminate pesticides, avoid hybrid flowers and include larval host plants and provide a hummingbird feeder.

      Gustafson purchases his plants from catalogs and from local suppliers, including Door County Landscape and Nursery. Owner Cliff Orstead has been selling native plants since 2002, and his mission of encouraging his customers to grow natives at their homes comes from his father, who instilled a love of nature in him.

      “The populations of birds, butterflies and other pollinators are diminishing, mostly in urban areas,” Orstead said. “I know many of my customers prefer a traditional look and feel to their gardens and landscaping, but we encourage the incorporation of native plants that meet the aesthetic design need they are looking for.”

      About 90 percent of Orstead’s products are native plants and the other 10 percent are landscape plants and perennials that are frequently requested. However, Orstead said he refuses to install plants known to be invasive, like Japanese barberry, some species of euphorbia and certain ornamental grasses.

      The USDA states that pollination is essential for ecological and human survival. Of the 1,400 food-producing plants throughout the world, nearly 80 percent are pollinated. Benefits of creating habitats for pollinating animals and insects is more important than being able to see butterflies, but to encourage the future.

      For more information about creating a pollinator garden, visit the USDA resource guide: or visit their Gardening for Pollinators website:

      —, on Twitter @alyssabloechl or Facebook at Alyssa Bloechl.

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      Major gifts for ‘healing courtyards’ at Dominican Hospital

      The proposed Monterey Peninsula Foundation Rehabilitation Garden at Dominican Hospital is to include a putting green to help patients relearn balance.


      The $5.3 million project to green the grounds at Dominican Hospital has three phases:

      Phase I, $2.8 million: The Monterey Peninsula Foundation Rehabilitation Garden, the Norman Maureen Benito Central Surgery Courtyard, and the Central Surgery Lounge and Balcony.

      Phase II, $1.5 million: Family Newborn Courtyard, Meditation Garden, and Front Plaza Entry.

      Phase III, $1 million: Healing Orchard and Meadow Courtyard.

      Details: Beverly Grova, Dominican Hospital Foundation, 831-462-7712, or

      SANTA CRUZ Three major donations have come in for “Healing Courtyards,” a $5.3 million initiative to transform six outdoor areas at Dignity Health Dominican Hospital with the goal of reducing patient stress and speeding recovery.

      The Monterey Peninsula Foundation, headed by Steve John, former owner of Ocean Honda, gave a matching gift of $500,000 for the rehabilitation garden for patients recovering from stroke, brain surgery and head trauma. The garden will include a putting green to help people relearn balance.

      Maureen Benito gave $250,000 in memory of her husband, funeral director Norman Benito, for the central surgery courtyard.

      “I just want his memory to live on forever because he was such a good man and so fond of the hospital,” she said.

      Lou Bartfield gave $100,000 to name a second-floor terrace balcony in memory of his wife, Isabel, a nurse who traveled periodically with medical teams on volunteer missions to South America.

      So far, $2.1 million has been raised toward the Phase 1 goal of $2.8 million.

      “People like this project,” said Beverly Grova, who heads the Dominican Hospital Foundation and is leading the fund drive.

      “Almost everyone on the committee has the experience of being at the hospital and waiting and the stress that brings on and how important the environment becomes,” she said.

      She hopes the first phase will be complete a year from now.

      The inspiration came 18 months ago when Grova was at Stanford Hospital feeling stressed as her daughter Monica underwent treatment but found a walk in the gardens outside was relaxing.

      Seeing the hospital promoting its gardens, she investigated online and found scientific research showing gazing at gardens can lower stress for patients, reduce the need for pain medication and result in shorter hospital stays.

      A 1984 study by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich was the first to use experimental controls and quantify health outcomes. A decade later, research found outdoor greenery gave hospital employees a mental boost.

      Discussions with staff resulted in targeting six areas including the outdoor space for people in rehab and an outdoor space for new moms and moms in labor.

      Caroline Kuspa, daughter of Dr. Harriet Korakas, the county’s first female OB-GYN, gave $25,000 to name a bronze animal sculpture in the mother-and-baby garden suitable for kids to climb on.

      Recognition opportunities from $1,000 to $500,000 are available, Grova said, noting drought-tolerant landscaping and drip irrigation will make the gardens sustainable.

      Santa Cruz landscape architect Joni L. Janecki Associates created the master plan.

      Burton expects the changes will impact the experience of thousands of people.

      The hospital is among the five largest employers in the county and will observe its 75th anniversary next year.


      The $5.3 million project to green the grounds at Dominican Hospital has three phases:

      Phase I, $2.8 million: The Monterey Peninsula Foundation Rehabilitation Garden, the Norman Maureen Benito Central Surgery Courtyard, and the Central Surgery Lounge and Balcony.

      Phase II, $1.5 million: Family Newborn Courtyard, Meditation Garden, and Front Plaza Entry.

      Phase III, $1 million: Healing Orchard and Meadow Courtyard.

      Details: Beverly Grova, Dominican Hospital Foundation, 831-462-7712,

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      Gardening Tips: Cooler weather tips

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      Last minute gardening tips before the deep freeze sets in

      Turkey isn’t the only thing on Calgarians’ minds Friday.

      It’s the last long weekend of the gardening season, and green thumbs may have a few loose ends to tie up before the really cold weather sets in.

      Sandy Maxwell is the Greenhouse Manager at Bluegrass Garden Centre.

      She says it’s a good time to clean up those perennials, by cutting them back two to four inches.

      Maxwell adds you should also clear those leaves away, especially around birch trees.

      “The bugs over winter stay in the ground at the base of tree, and then in the spring they climb back in and bore into the leaves. It’s a good idea to clean up your leaves because again, you’re not leaving a big habitat for insects and diseases,” she said.

      Ahead of the ground freezing, you should be watering in your plants well, especially new trees and shrubs to help keep the roots moist and protect them during extended chinook periods this winter.

      “Often we have a lot of warm weather and so if you’ve watered them in well, the root systems aren’t going to dry out, and that ice cube around the roots also helps them hold their dormancy,” she said.

      It’s often hard to predict when that deep freeze will occur but you can start preparing now.

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      Late bloomers: Alan Titchmarsh’s tips on growing cyclamen

      The blooms will last for several weeks at this time of year, but that need not be the last you see of hardy cyclamen. 

      Plant Cyclamen coum and you will find that the smaller, rounded-petalled flowers of this species open in winter when Cyclamen hederifolium can offer you only its intriguingly figured foliage.

      Make sure that both species are bought as growing plants or tubers harvested from a sustainable source. They are a true delight.

      Don’t miss Alan’s gardening in today’s Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit

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      Garden tips for mid-fall season

      1. Take control of perennial weeds in lawns such as Creeping Charlie, wood violets and dandelions in the fall season. Selective lawn herbicide products containing triclopyr as an active ingredient can be sprayed at this time of the year, as the plants are receptive to translocate the herbicide into their root system. Don’t mow your lawn after you sprayed for at least seven to 10 days.

      2. Don’t cut back on perennials until they turn brown or wait until late fall (mid to late November).  Cutting perennials too early in the fall can result in waste of their nutrients that are still saved in their green leaves and stems. Perennials that add winter interest in the landscape are best cut back in the following spring season.

      3. It is too late to divide, transplant or plant any perennials in the ground. Not much time is left for the perennial roots to reacquaint in the soil before the cold winter hits. The best time to divide, transplant, or plant most perennials is in spring.

      4. It is a great time to plant spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus. Plant the bulb to a depth of 2½ times its height. Larger bulbs such as tulips and daffodils are planted at 6 to 8 inches deep, hyacinth at 6 inches, and other smaller bulbs such as crocus and snowdrop at a depth of 4 inches.

      5. Tender bulbous plants such as cannas, elephant ears, dahlias, caladium and begonia can be dug out for indoor overwintering after first frost or when the leaves turned complete brown. Cut the shoots a couple of inches above the tubers, remove any excess dirt and air dry the tubers at normal room temperature for a few days. Store the healthy bulbs in wooden or plastic crates or cardboard boxes stuffed with peat moss, coir or sawdust in an unheated basement.

      6. Plant garlic cloves in your garden bed. Plant the cloves not more than 2 inches deep. Mulch the planted bed with straw after the ground freezes (mid to late November).

      7. Fall seeding of native prairie mix (40 to 50 percent grasses and 50 to 60 percent wildflowers) helps better germination in the following spring. For direct seeding on smaller beds, loosen the bed and hand broadcast the seed mix (for uniform distribution, mix the clean seeds with dry sand or moist sawdust at 1:4 ratio) by making two passes at a right angle to each other. Lightly rake the seeds back into the soil and mulch it with straw.

      8. Now is a great time to shop and plant many deciduous trees and shrubs. They are available at exceptional bargain prices at many garden centers. Cool air temperature and moist soil in the fall provides faster root development for many deciduous trees and shrubs. But don’t wait until November for planting.

      9. Strange black blotches on maple leaves, caused by a fungal disease called tar spot, have become a common phenomenon in fall. This disease is purely cosmetic in nature and will not affect the health of the tree. Raking the fallen leaves and destroying them by composting or burying can help to minimize the spores for next year.

      10. Continue watering evergreens once a week to an inch deep until late fall if there is a lack of significant rainfall. Well-watered evergreens in the fall season can minimize winter burn injuries.

      Vijai Pandian is the horticultural agent/educator for the Brown County University of Wisconsin-Extension.

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